By Jessica Robinson, Editor-in-Chief
Negotiations have been in effect since May 2017
Since May 2017, the Laurentian University Faculty Association (LUFA) and the Laurentian administration have been attempting to renegotiate the faculty’s collective agreement with the university.
As of June 30, 2017, the faculty have been without a collective agreement. Vacations in July and August on either side of the table resulted in limited meetings during the summer. According to the Laurentian website, the parties had met for 12 days of face-to-face bargaining as of September 6.
The LUFA executive and negotiating team has expressed frustration over “serious problems in scheduling bargaining rounds with the administration team” in posts on their website. They said that, “when the two sides have met, progress has been dismally slow.”
The administration states that “discussions remain very professional and respectful, however there are still numerous issues on both sides that have yet to be discussed at the table.” Both parties have agreed to multiple days of face-to-face bargaining at the end of September, and the university has indicated its availability well into October.
The earliest there could be a Laurentian faculty strike is September 28, 2017
The earliest date they will be in a legal strike position is 12:01am on September 28, 17 days after a “No Board Report” was issued.
Prior to initiating a strike, a strike vote must have been conducted and more than 50% of those voting must vote in favour of a strike. This vote on strike mandate is being conducted by LUFA as of Friday, September 15, to be completed on Monday, September 18 at 3pm.
In what LUFA described as “tak[ing] the initiative in bargaining,” LUFA’s executive team booked mediation talks with the third-party mediator, William Kaplan, for Friday, September 15, and Sunday, September 24.
The administration declined the offer to meet on the 15th, and accepted the meeting scheduled for the 24th. LUFA’s executive team described this as “seeming indifference,” while Laurentian’s administration stated that this was to “reduce the number of issues for mediation by creating time for face-to-face bargaining.”
The administration says they are at the table and ready to negotiate
“I recognize that the administration has been accused of not being at the table,” says Alex Freedman, Chief of Staff of Laurentian University.
“We have been there. We started negotiations in May, we were there. During the month of June, we had six dates cancelled by the union. They wanted to take July off for vacation, also very respectable, no problem there. But we were hoping to get a lot of work done during that period. We didn’t, so we’re now back at it, we had negotiation dates in August, in September we have more planned.”
Freedman explains that the administration wants to talk further about the many issues still on the table before going to a mediator.
“The reason we said no to the 15th is very simply because there are a number of matters that have not been discussed at this point,” Freedman says. “It’s really important that we have a collegial conversation around these points, to figure out what is and what isn’t at the table. And then, with the major sticking points, we have no problem going to a mediator. That’s why we’ve agreed to go [September] 24th and [October] 5th.”
LUFA President says they’ve had “a hell of a time”
Jm Ketchen, president of LUFA, says that it’s “misleading” to claim that meeting with the mediator does not count as meeting at the table.
“When you’re with a mediator, you’re still at the table,” Ketchen says. “You’re in negotiations; the mediator is there as a neutral third party, trying to see something the parties might not see. He facilitates the meeting, that’s what he’s there for.”
“The fact is, we’ve had a hell of a time getting [the administration] to the table,” he says. “They originally only agreed to dates at the end of [September]. We freed up our calendar completely; the dates we finally got them to agree to, they’re saying they proposed them, but that’s just not true. We have it in writing. We cleared our weekends for them.”
“We took the very unusual and unprecedented step of actually booking the external mediator for [Friday, September 15th],” Ketchen continues. “They had freed some time, they told us they could meet on the 15th, and we said good, we’re going to book the mediator. All of a sudden the administration said ‘no, we’re not interested.’ We were quite surprised.”
Students are being encouraged to “proceed as normal” for now
As of right now, there is no labour action that is affecting students or classes.
“I would not recommend making any changes to schedules, developing any alternate plans,” said Freedman.
Whether or not a strike affects student studies longterm largely depends on the length of the labour action.
“At the end of the day, so much will depend on what happens and when, and how long,” said Freedman. “If there is a labour disruption, and it’s a [just] few days, it likely won’t have any significant effect [on students]. Depending on the length, there may be catch up classes required. We’re not cancelling anything; we’re only suspending classes during the period of time that that happens.”
“We’re committed to doing everything in our power to ensure that this is resolved without disruption,” he said.
If there is a strike, classes will be suspended
In the case of a strike, faculty withdraws services, meaning no lectures, no grading or even emailing, for all classes including distance and online. They will not run labs or supervise work placements.
There will be picket lines at the university’s entrance that you will need to cross to enter or exit campus. You can ask the faculty questions; the picketers will not stop you from coming or going on campus. However, traffic will likely be slowed, and city buses in Sudbury do not cross picket lines, so you will have to walk to and from the entrance if you need to take one.
The administration will suspend classes, but the university will continue to be open and operating (including residence).
The Lambda will be updating students as information becomes available on the likelihood of a strike here at thelambda.ca